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Teaching At The Speed Of News

Teaching At The Speed Of NewsTufts students and faculty are adapting their courses and discussions to address terrorism and its impact, reports The Boston Globe.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.30.01] What can Napoleon teach us about America's war on terrorism? Students in Professor Malik Mufti's "War and Empire" class are spending the semester finding out. Reflecting a growing trend in the last few months, Mufti's class -- and others around Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus -- are adapting to give students a better understanding of the complex international issues that have dominated the nation's focus.

"All the books were tossed out," Michael Goldman -- a political science professor teaching "Media, Politics and the Law" at Tufts this semester -- told The Boston Globe. "Since there is no book, every day I go through newspapers, find articles, and fax them to the class. We're creating the book as we go along."

Goldman and some of his colleagues at Tufts are bringing together traditional courses with current events to try to answer the questions many students are bringing to class.

"Half the discussions revolve around what happened," Mufti told the Globe. This semester, students are studying historical theories of war in his "War and Empire" class.

"Students are referring to what is happening and looking to the present to draw parallels to the classics," the political science professor said in the Globe's article on Sunday.

According to the newspaper, "In class last week, just two days before a midterm, students were passionately debating the military techniques being used in this war, comparing them to past wars."

As a result, discussions about Napoleon have new relevance in today's political climate.

"Napoleon was a freak of nature -- he could not be predicted," Mufti told his class last week. "You want to understand what can happen in order to control it."

That search for understanding has prompted Tufts' Robyn Gittleman -- director of the University's Experimental College -- to create a new course on terrorism for the Spring.

"Our idea on a course on terrorism was to get the students to think about a fuller response -- the history of terrorism and how it has changed," Gittleman told the Globe. "Terrorism goes back eons. People want to change the world because they think it's important whether it be for religious reasons, or political, or financial."

On campus, Tufts students appear to have a great deal of interest in these issues.

Mufti plans to double the capacity of the U.S. foreign policy class he will teach this spring. And Gittleman expects a large turnout for the Ex-College terrorism course.

"I don't think there's anyplace on this campus where there's a course like this," she told the Globe. "It might be something that in two years you'll see other schools offer on their curriculum permanently."

The Globe reported that student interest in these issues around Tufts has expanded beyond their classrooms.

"Students gathered in an auditorium on the evening of Oct. 11, to listen to political science professors talk about 'Doing the right thing: U.S. options in the war on terrorism,'" reported the newspaper. "Yet others debated Middle East politics and wrote of life in Afghanistan in the pages of the campus newspaper. And CNN's broadcast of President Bush speaking to reporters replaced lunch time soaps on the big screen television in the campus center, as students gathered to listen and eat indoors on a recent sunny afternoon."

The result is both exciting and challenging for Tufts' faculty.

"The hard part of this class is that I have no idea where this is going," Goldman told the Globe. "What I'm hoping happens is that long after I'm gone, these people will be able to talk about this part of history informatively. I just want them to be able to make good judgments."

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